Around 120 professors at New York University have joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in calling for the institution to divest from companies linked to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Al-Risalah newspaper has reported. The BDS movement has had some success in other parts of the US, notably in California.
According to Al-Risalah, the academics criticised the NYU policy of not disclosing the identity of the companies it is dealing with. This, they say, makes it harder to know whether they deal with the Israeli occupation or not. Students at NYU are pushing their professors to call for transparency in the university’s investments, and for divestment if and when links to the occupation are discovered.
“I support ‘NYU Out of Occupied Palestine’ because I am opposed to apartheid,” said Professor of English Elaine Freedgood in a press statement. “The international boycott of apartheid in South Africa was a significant factor in its demise.”
Other professors who signed the petition include Iraqi novelist Sinan Antoon, historians Greg Grandin and Zachary Lockman, and Ella Shohat, a well-known cultural studies scholar.
There’s a popular movement in Sicily called No MUOS. MUOS means Mobile User Objective System. It’s a satellite communications system created by the U.S. Navy. The primary contractor and profiteer building the satellite equipment at the U.S. Navy base in the desert in Sicily is Lockheed Martin Space Systems. This is one of four ground stations, each intended to include three swivelling very-high-frequency satellite dishes with a diameter of 18.4 meters and two Ultra High Frequency (UHF) helical antennas.
Protests have been growing in the nearby town of Niscemi since 2012. In October 2012, construction was suspended for a few weeks. In early 2013 the President of the Region of Sicily revoked the authorization for the MUOS construction. The Italian government conducted a dubious study of health impacts and concluded the project was safe. Work recommenced. The town of Niscemi appealed, and in April 2014 the Regional Administrative Tribunal requested a new study. Construction goes on, as does resistance.
I spoke with Fabio D’Alessandro, a juornalist and law school graduate living in Niscemi. “I’m part of the No MUOS movement,” he told me, “a movement that works to prevent the installation of the U.S. satellite system called MUOS. To be specific, I’m part of the No MUOS committee of Niscemi, which is part of the coalition of No MUOS committees, a network of committees spread around Sicily and in the major Italian cities.”
“It is very sad,” said D’Alessandro,”to realize that in the United States people know little about MUOS. MUOS is a system for high-frequency and narrowband satellite communications, composed of five satellites and four stations on earth, one of which is planned for Niscemi. MUOS was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. The purpose of the program is the creation of a global communications network that allows communication in real time with any soldier in any part of the world. In addition it will be possible to send encrypted messages. One of the principal functions of MUOS, apart from the speed of communications, is the ability to remotely pilot drones. Recent tests have demonstrated how MUOS can be used at the North Pole. In short, MUOS will serve to support any U.S. conflict in the Mediterranean or the Middle East or Asia. It’s all part of the effort to automate war, entrusting the choice of targets to machines.”
“There are many reasons to oppose MUOS,” D’Alessandro told me, “first of all the local community has not been advised of the installation. The MUOS satellite dishes and antennas are built within a non-NATO U.S. military base that has existed in Niscemi since 1991. The base was constructed within a nature preserve, destroying thousands of cork oaks and devestating the landscape by means of bulldozers that leveled a hill. The base is larger than the town of Niscemi itself. The presence of the satellite dishes and antennas puts at serious risk a fragile habitat including flora and fauna that exist only in this place. And no study has been conducted of the dangers of the electromagnetic waves emitted, neither for the animal population nor for the human inhabitants and the civilian flights from the Comiso Airport approximately 20 kilometers away.
“Within the base there are already present 46 satellite dishes, surpassing the limit set by Italian law. Moreover, as determined anti-militarists, we oppose further militarizing this area, which already has the base at Sigonella and other U.S. bases in Sicily. We don’t want to be complicit in the next wars. And we don’t want to become a target for whoever attempts to attack the U.S. military.”
What have you done thus far, I asked.
“We’ve engaged in lots of different actions against the base: more than once we’ve cut through the fences; three times we’ve invaded the base en masse; twice we’ve entered the base with thousands demonstrating. We’ve blocked the roads to prevent access for the workers and the American military personnel. There has been sabotage of the optical communication wires, and many other actions.”
The No Dal Molin movement against the new base at Vicenza, Italy, has not stopped that base. Have you learned anything from their efforts? Are you in touch with them?
“We are in constant contact with No Dal Molin, and we know their history well. The company that is building MUOS, Gemmo SPA, is the same that did the work on Dal Molin and is currently under investigation subsequent to the seizure of the MUOS building site by the courts in Caltagirone. Anyone attempting to bring into doubt the legitimacy of U.S. military bases in Italy is obliged to work with political groups on the right and left that have always been pro-NATO. And in this case the first supporters of MUOS were the politicians just as happened at Dal Molin. We often meet with delegations of activists from Vicenza and three times have been their guests.”
I went with representatives of No Dal Molin to meet with Congress Members and Senators and their staffs in Washington, and they simply asked us where the base should go if not Vicenza. We replied “Nowhere.” Have you met with anyone in the U.S. government or communicated with them in any way?
“Many times the U.S. consuls have come to Niscemi but we have never been permitted to speak with them. We have never in any way communicated with U.S. senators/representatives, and none have ever asked to meet with us.”
Where are the other three MOUS sites? Are you in touch with resisters there? Or with the resistance to bases on Jeju Island or Okinawa or the Philippines or elsewhere around the world? The Chagossians seeking to return might make good allies, right? What about the groups studying the military damage to Sardinia? Environmental groups are concerned about Jeju and about Pagan Island Are they helpful in Sicily?
“We are in direct contact with the No Radar group in Sardinia. One of the planners of that struggle has worked (for free) for us. We know the other anti-U.S.-base movements around the world, and thanks to No Dal Molin and to David Vine, we have been able to hold some virtual meetings. Also thanks to the support of Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space we are trying to get in touch with those in Hawaii and Okinawa.”
What would you most like people in the United States to know?
“The imperialism that the United States is imposing on the countries that lost the Second World War is shameful. We are tired of having to be slaves to a foreign politics that to us is crazy and that obliges us to make enormous sacrifices and that makes Sicily and Italy no longer lands of welcome and peace, but lands of war, deserts in use by the U.S. Navy.”
Iran’s Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Ali Larijani says the Islamic Republic supports negotiations among representatives from all parties involved in the Yemeni crisis, describing national dialog as the only way to end the conflict.
During a telephone conversation with Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan Sardar Ayaz Sadiq on Sunday, Larijani lamented the ongoing Saudi airstrikes that have led to the deaths of hundreds of Yemenis and destroyed the country’s infrastructure.
“Such military aggression, irrespective of its objectives, is a blow to the Muslim Ummah and benefits the Zionist regime (of Israel) and major powers. The aggressive countries must explain why they are using their facilities to deal a blow to a Muslim state,” the top Iranian legislator pointed out.
Larijani also described Yemenis as a courageous nation, which has bogged foreign intruders down and made them regret their measures throughout history.
He called on aggressive governments to take salutary lessons from the failed Soviet and US-led military campaigns against Afghanistan.
Sadiq, for his part, stated that Islamabad has no intention to become engaged in the Yemen crisis, and seeks the establishment of calm and peace in Yemen in line with the Muslim world’s interests.
Saudi Arabia’s air campaign against Yemen started on March 26 without a UN mandate in a bid to restore power to Yemen’s fugitive president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh.
Hadi stepped down in January and refused to reconsider the decision despite calls by the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
On March 25, the embattled president fled Aden, where he had sought to set up a rival power base, to Riyadh after Ansarullah revolutionaries advanced on the port.
The Ansarullah fighters took control of Sana’a in September 2014 and are currently moving southward. The revolutionaries said the Hadi government was incapable of properly running the affairs of the country and containing the growing wave of corruption and terror.
To be a freier is anathema to Israelis. The Yiddish word is translated loosely as “sucker”, which doesn’t really do justice to its broader and more significant connotations. “Don’t be a freier” is practically the 11th commandment in Israel and the fear of actually being one plays into every aspect of life. This includes politics, where such an accusation could damage a politician’s public image badly.
Benjamin Netanyahu beat the Labour Party’s Shimon Peres in the 1996 election largely because Peres was seen as a freier; a pushover, someone who cedes ground, plays by the rules and allows others to get the better of him. Netanyahu’s latest victory was also very much down to his own uncompromising image as a bit of a political brawler; someone who will never concede from a position of strength; someone who in the eyes of Israeli voters is not a sucker.
“Liberal Zionists” are freiers in the eyes of many Israelis because they want to end Israel’s occupation, an end to settlements and the emergence of a free and sovereign Palestinian state. Liberal Zionists are also “suckers” in another way; they have been deceived into thinking that Zionism and liberalism can be reconciled.
Their dream has been dashed. The extremely illiberal manner in which Netanyahu secured his latest election victory – which included calling on right-wing Israelis to get out and vote because Arab voters were coming out in droves – has prompted much soul-searching amongst liberal Jews.
Jonathan Freedland, the Guardian‘s executive editor and an ardent liberal Zionist, is disturbed that “Netanyahu sank into the moral gutter and there will be consequences“. J Street, an American liberal Jewish advocacy group, held a plenary session during its annual conference on the future of liberal Zionism. A visibly irritated prominent liberal Zionist, Peter Beinart, author of the “Crises of Zionism”, bleated over Netanyahu’s victory and declared his support for “any campaign” against Israel’s occupation that was “non-violent” but which must “recognise Israel’s right to exist”.
What unites liberal Zionists is the belief – or at least the hope – that Israel can reconcile and balance being a Jewish and a democratic state, serving both as the realisation of Jewish national self-determination and as a modern liberal state that guarantees equality to all citizens regardless of their religion or ethnic heritage. This liberal Zionist dream looks more like a fantasy than a realistic political aspiration for a number of reasons.
For a start, in what is supposed to be land earmarked for a Palestinian state, Israel presides over an apartheid system that has been the cause of much embarrassment to liberal Zionists like Beinart and Freedland. Within Israel itself there are more than 50 laws that discriminate against non-Jews in all areas of life, including their rights to political participation and access to land, education, state services and resources, and the criminal justice system.
Being a liberal Zionist was always going to be a tough act to pull off; now it has become near enough impossible. The intrinsic contradiction between wanting social justice and equity whilst simultaneously supporting a militaristic and apartheid state of Israel (and a “Jewish State” at that) produces what psychologists call cognitive dissonance; the discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values at the same time.
It was in many ways an odd synthesis to start off with purely because liberalism at its core is about inclusion and universal rights and principals. Zionism, on the other hand, has always been about exclusion and Jewish exceptionalism.
Nevertheless, it was in many ways a necessary synthesis no matter how oxymoronic it seems. For Diaspora Jews, the majority of whom are liberal and support Israel, it was an ideological construct that functioned as a bridging concept between two irreconcilable ideologies: Zionism and liberalism.
As such, it has enabled liberal Jews to operate as pillars of support for the state of Israel and as apologists for its inherent illiberalism. Their loyalty is in the name of an idealistic Israel; a mythical Israel; an Israel that never really existed; a Jewish democratic country that can balance its dual identities. It’s a position that has contributed to the kind of arrogance and chutzpah that makes Israeli politicians believe that they can get away with anything.
In persisting with their arguments that they support what is in the “best interests of Israel”, while also policing the boundaries of “legitimate” and “illegitimate” criticisms of their mythical Israel, liberal Zionists have placed themselves in an unsustainable contradictory position. Therein they are forced to compromise on the central principals of liberalism, such as human rights, the rule of law and justice.
To avoid having to confront this reality liberal Zionists cling to some central illusions. They have constructed an artificial dichotomy between the State of Israel and the illegal Jewish settlements built on occupied Palestinian territory; they pretend that the state and the settlements – which undermine their narrative of a democratic Israel – are somehow disconnected, or can be. Zionists like Peter Beinart typify this when they suggest renaming the West Bank “undemocratic Israel” to distinguish it from the territory occupied in 1948, which is “democratic” Israel.
In reality, one cannot, in any serious way, separate Israel from its settlement enterprise, simply because the colonial outposts are central to Israeli state policy and not some breach of international law orchestrated by feral Jewish settlers.
Liberal Zionists have also called the bluff of Israeli politicians who have been paying lip service to a two-state solution. Their faith in a future post-occupation, post-settlements and post-apartheid democratic Israel is nought but a utopian dream.
They talk about an always just around the corner, yet really non-existent, two-state solution, which has provided Israel with infinite flexibility to expand and, above all, given it an alibi for its core colonial policy to occupy as much Palestinian land as possible. If liberal Zionists fear the spectre of a future apartheid Israeli state if the two-state solution is killed off – which would explain their shrilling response to Netanyahu’s electoral promise not to permit the creation of a Palestinian state – they ought to challenge Israel for what it is now and not make apologies for it based on an illusory Utopian future.
It has become obvious that liberal Zionists shy away from talking about Israel’s original sin, when the founders of the state started an act of ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population which is ongoing to this day. Almost 750,000 Palestinians were killed or driven from their homes to make way for the foundation of the state of Israel which had to have a majority Jewish population. While over five million Palestinians are still refugees and stateless, liberal Zionists would rather close this embarrassing chapter of Israel’s bloody history and not face the difficult questions about the human rights being denied to Palestinians, including the refugees’ right to return to their land, which is guaranteed under international law.
Some liberal Zionists do admit that Israel’s past sins create a tolerable tension, but this does not reduce their support for the state, or call its existence into question. What concerns them most is Israel’s survival as a “Jewish democracy” no matter what the circumstances were around the state’s foundation.
In reconciling Israel’s past with their liberal principals they’ve resorted to all kinds of sophistry, including devising verbal crutches to prevent their liberal principals being overwhelmed by illiberal ethnic loyalty. For example, a vague notion of conflicting rights has been used to undermine Palestinian human rights, such as the legitimate right of Israel to be a Jewish state and the legitimate right of Palestinians to return and be compensated for their forceful expulsion.
Liberals who are normally devoted to the rule of law and human rights are quick to compromise this key tenet of liberalism when they put on a Zionist hat and make a spurious trade-off between the legitimate rights of Palestinian refugees and the desire of Israel to be a Jewish state. They forget, despite their liberalism, that Jewish self-determination cannot trump Palestinian human rights.
The “liberal” prefix for Zionism has been used to dilute the true essence of the latter as an ethno-religious colonial project. According to the French Jewish historian Maxime Rodinson, the Zionist project began as, “A Colonial-Settler State, wanting to create a purely Jewish or predominantly Jewish state in Arab Palestine in the 20th century.” Born out of illiberal values and principals it could not “help but lead to a colonial-type situation and the development of a racist state of mind, and in the final analysis, to a military confrontation.” Liberal Zionism is, therefore, politically and morally bankrupt.
With no end in sight to Israel’s decades-long occupation, liberal Zionists need to consider the fact that it is – along with on-going land theft and ethnic cleansing – at odds with liberal principles as well as the essence of Zionism; occupation is not some reactionary by-product of a state under siege.
Far from being Utopian, Israel’s reality is that it is a state that treats international laws and conventions with contempt, whilst using Judaism and Jewish history for its own colonial objectives. Liberal Zionists need to decide which is more valuable, liberal democracy or a Jewish majority state. They can’t have both.
Has the Bani Saud made one mistake too many by attacking Yemen? If the conflict drags on, it is likely to bring down the Najdi Bedouins’ sand castles.
It is easy to start a war but difficult to determine its direction, outcome or how to end it. Ask any general and he would confirm that the best prepared plans are made redundant as soon as the first shots are fired. The “Saudi” regime has just made a strategic blunder by attacking dirt-poor Yemen. In fact, the war is launched against the Houthi militia that has made impressive gains in recent weeks and months in the war-torn country. And true to form, the bedouins from Najd, calling themselves “Saudis,” have mobilized a so-called “coalition of the willing” that includes such great warriors as the Kuwaitis, Qataris, Bahrainis, and Emiratis. The Yemenis must be trembling in their sandals. In their quest to act as regional cop, the “Saudis” have also obtained the services of such basket cases as Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan and Pakistan.
The “Saudi” war on Yemen is both illegal and immoral. It is naked aggression against another country launched on false pretence. The “Saudi” regime has never fired a single shot against the Zionist occupiers of Palestine, for instance, but it has always been quick to attack Muslims. The “Saudi” regime is hiding behind the excuse that the “legitimate government” in Yemen asked for help. The Najdi bedouins do not have legitimacy in the Arabian Peninsula so how can they claim to be supporting a “legitimate government” elsewhere? The supposed head of that so-called legitimate government — Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi — had already fled the country before the “Saudis” launched their air strikes killing scores of innocent civilians. These constitute war crimes and the “Saudi” rulers could be hauled before a court of law for their criminal conduct.
Beyond legality lie other unpleasant truths. The “Saudi” army is made up of amateurs. They have seldom if ever participated in any real battle. The regime has traditionally relied on creating sectarian fitnah — its principal mode of operation — and hiring mercenaries from other countries. The sectarian fitnah may not work in Yemen as successfully as it has in some other places because there are many Sunni groups fighting against the illegitimate regime of Hadi, in addition to the Houthis, the main revolutionary force in Yemen, who just happen to be Zaydi Shi‘is. How would the “Saudis” justify their sectarian charge against Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president, who is “Sunni”? He was forced to resign in February 2012 under pressure from then King Abdullah of “Saudi” Arabia. Besides, the Houthis are now seen by most Yemenis as champions of the country’s independence, defending it against foreign aggression.
There appear to be two factors at work in the Najdi bedouins’ decision to attack Yemen. First, they are in panic mode given their failures on multiple fronts — Syria, Iraq, etc., where they have unleashed the takfiri beheaders and liver-eaters. While these monsters have caused immense suffering and even occupied some territory, they have failed in their primary objective of overthrowing the government in either. Second, the younger members of the ruling dynasty — Muhammad bin Nayef and Muhammad bin Salman — want to prove their macho credentials. The former was appointed Deputy Crown Prince after the death of King Abdullah in January. He was already the country’s interior minister, essentially Mr. Security for the Kingdom, and has earned notoriety for his brutal ways. The latter was appointed defence minister by his father when he became king following Abdullah’s death. Perhaps the two young “royals” have become intoxicated by the shiny American-made weapons their forces possess. What they have failed to realize is that it is not the gun but the man behind the gun that matters. The “Saudis” may be notorious for cruelty but they have no valour.
Many examples of the folly of relying on weapons are available. The US conduct of war in different locales offers sobering lessons. Who would have thought that despite their sophisticated weaponry, the Americans would suffer such an ignominious defeat in Afghanistan? The Hindu Kush mountains have once again proved to be the graveyard of empires. For nearly 40 years, the Afghans have known nothing but war and parts of the country are so poor that the Stone Age would feel like modernity. Yet, these so-called primitive people have not only endured more than a decade of American military aggression — the self-proclaimed superpower — but also 40 of its allies. Each and every one of America’s allies has slunk out of the country not daring to look back. The Americans, too, are about to slink out. Nor have the Americans given any better account in Iraq, or indeed in Vietnam five decades ago. While we may deride the Americans’ lack of valour, the “Saudis” lag far behind.
Beyond their fighting skills, or lack thereof, there are other factors that are equally revealing. The “Saudis” have made no secret that they attacked Yemen to protect “Arab” interests. Their mask of Islamicity is off by their own words and deeds. Committed Muslims have never had any illusions about the true nature of this regime whose entire record is one of treachery and betrayal of Islam. Those Muslims in their innocence or ignorance who fell for the Najdi bedouins’ propaganda that the ruler of the Kingdom is “Khadim al-Haramayn” (caretaker of the Two Holy Masjids) and serving the cause of Islam should now disabuse their minds of this myth because they are Khadim al-Mufsidayn (America and Israel).
Their Islamic credentials were always suspect. Further, few in the Muslim world adhere to the narrow literalist interpretations of Wahhabism. The regime has used its huge wealth to buy loyalty — according to one estimate, nearly $100 billion have been spent since 1975 to rope in individuals, groups and organizations to its side. While they may not have become Wahhabis, such people are coerced into silence about Saudi misdemeanours. Who would like to see their bakhshish stopped when life for most in the Muslim world is so difficult?
While the Najdi clowns cannot defeat the Houthis by bombardment from the air, should they make the mistake of sending in their ground troops, they would probably seal their fate. The Houthis would make minced meat of “Saudi” soldiers or any other mercenary forces from equally repressive Arabian regimes, be they Egyptian or Jordanian. Perhaps, revolutionary Muslims should pray that the Najdi bedouins make the mistake of blundering into launching a ground invasion of Yemen. That would perhaps hasten the end of this decrepit regime that has been the bane of Muslims for decades. The bedouins from Najd may have dug their own grave.
Yemen’s ousted officials have requested a ground intervention to bolster a Saudi-led air offensive against the country’s Houthi rebels. Meanwhile, neighboring Iran has made calls for diplomacy, saying the military campaign is a “strategic mistake”.
Saudi authorities say they have gathered troops along the border with Yemen in preparation for any possible ground offensive, Reuters reported on Tuesday, adding that no exact time to send the troops in has yet been stipulated. Pakistan, which has previously supported Riyadh by deploying troops to Saudi Arabia to provide extra regional security, also said that it is sending troops to support Saudi Arabia in the context of the current Yemeni conflict, the agency reported.
Despite airstrikes delivered by Saudi air forces and their Gulf allies, the Houthis are continuing their offensive against the dwindling loyalists of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Hadi was ousted by the rebels and fled to Saudi Arabia, requesting military intervention from the Arab states.
The heaviest exchange of cross-border fire since the start of air offensive was reported on Tuesday, with Saudi troops clashing with Yemeni Houthi fighters. Hadi-allied officials have remained hopeful that Riyadh would send ground troops to turn the tide for the ousted official.
“We are asking for that [Saudi ground operation in Yemen], and as soon as possible, in order to save our infrastructure and save Yemenis under siege in many cities,” the president’s Foreign Minister Riyadh Yasseen said an interview with al-Arabiya Hadath TV channel.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian labeled the Saudi strikes a “strategic mistake” and called for a dialogue to help solve the crisis in Yemen. “Iran and Saudi Arabia can cooperate to solve the Yemeni crisis,” the official said in Kuwait, as cited by Reuters, adding that Iran “recommends all parties in Yemen return to calm and dialogue.”
“This war is not about Yemen or the Houthis, it’s about what used to be a cold war between the Persians and the rest of the Islamic world, especially the Arab Gulf. Today the cold war became a real one,” political analyst Roula Taj told RT.
More casualties have been reported in the escalating conflict, with overnight street clashes in Hadi’s stronghold Aden claiming at least 26 lives, Reuters reported, citing a health ministry official. Ten others died during the Tuesday shelling of a residential building close to the residence once used by the president, the agency reported referring to witnesses accounts. In the central town of Yarim, an air strike hit a fuel tanker, killing at least 10 people, residents said.
Coalition bombers targeted rebel positions near the airport of the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, while fighters from the Houthi militia entered a coastal military base overlooking the Red Sea’s strategic Bab el-Mandeb strait on Tuesday, local officials told Reuters. Heavy fighting between Hadi loyalists and opponents was also reported in southern province of Dhalea.
On Monday, 45 people were killed and another 65 injured in an airstrike by a Saudi-led coalition at a refugee camp in Houthi-controlled northern Yemen, according to the International Organization for Migration (IMO).
The airstrikes have also affected the Red Cross medical supplies deliveries to the area, with the planes which are carrying the necessities unable to fly to Yemen.
“In Yemen today we have a very serious humanitarian situation. Hospitals are running at a low capacity… We need to bring in urgent medical supplies to sustain our stocks,” spokesperson at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for Near and Middle East Sitara Jabeen told RT.
She added that the organization was expecting to bring in a plane carrying medical supplies for up to 1,000 patients to Sanaa, “but so far have not been able to get the permission we need to move this plane from Jordan to Yemen.”
So far, the airstrikes have failed to change the military balance in Yemen. While Houthis reportedly found an ally in Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who resigned in 2012 amid mass public protests, some Western officials have alleged that Iran financially supports the Houthis in an effort to control Yemen’s Red Sea coast.
Voicing support for the Saudi bombing campaign, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan last week accused Iran of seeking regional dominance in the Middle East. Tehran officials said Erdogan’s visit to Iran, which is scheduled for next week, may now be scrapped. The warning came from Iranian MP Esmayeel Kosari in his Sunday interview with the semi-official Fars news agency. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on Ankara to act responsibly in the conflict.
Russia has also warned against reducing the complex Yemeni conflict to a simplified stand-off narrative, whether national or sectarian in nature. “We cannot allow it to degrade into a Sunni-Shiite confrontation. Neither can we allow the situation to turn into an open conflict between the Arabs and Iran. We will do everything to prevent it,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday.
The intensified fighting in the country provides a fertile ground for extremism and terrorism, with Yemen having already been an operational base of Al-Qaeda militants for years. After the Yemeni and Saudi branches of Al-Qaeda merged to form Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group became one of the world’s biggest exporters of terrorism, with the US considering it the most dangerous branch of Al-Qaeda.
AQAP claims to be behind January attack on Charlie Hebdo journalists in Paris, with terrorists saying the main enemy of Islam is now France rather than the United States. The latter has already scaled down its operations against AQAP in the region, undermining an effort dating back to 2002.
The conflict in Yemen may also hamper the campaigns against the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, where US and its Arab allies found themselves on the same side as Iran. Extremist groups affiliated with the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) now operate in Yemen, with its militants claiming responsibility for recent attacks on mosques in the country’s capital Sanaa, in which over 100 people have been killed and hundreds injured.
TEHRAN – A senior member of the Yemeni Ansarullah movement warned that his country’s crushing response to the Saudi aggression will devastate the Arab kingdom and change the geopolitics of the region.
“The Yemeni nation will change the map of the region,” Al-Alam Arabic-language TV quoted Nasreddin Amer, member of Ansarullah’s Information Dissemination Committee as saying on Monday.
“We will respond to Saudi King Salman bin Abdel Aziz in the battlefield and unexpected events will take place in the coming days,” he added.
He reiterated that the Al Saud regime have embarked on attacking Yemen in order to prevent Yemen from becoming a free country which will not be under the control of the Saudi regime.
On Sunday, a senior member of Ansarullah movement’s Political Council Mohammad al-Bakhiti warned that the movement will give a crushing response to any possible ground invasion of Yemen.
“Any ground attack on Yemen will receive a rigidly harsh response,” al-Bakhiti said.
“We have not responded to the Saudi aggressions in the past five days because we wanted to allow the Arab countries to reconsider their action and stop their attacks,” he said, and added “but from now on everything will be different”.
Al-Bakhiti described the Saudi-led alliance against Yemen as a moral crisis, and said, “Whatever the Arab conference decided about Yemen will end in serious crisis.”
He underlined that the Yemeni people have confidence in their resistance and are confident that they will win.
On Saturday, a senior member of the popular Ansarullah movement warned of immediate attacks on Saudi territories if the latter refrains from putting an immediate halt to its aggression against Yemen.
“As the Ansarullah movement has promised collapse of some Arab regimes supporting the terrorists, if Saudi Arabia continues its aggressions against the oppressed Yemeni people the Ansarullah fighters will pave the way for the Saudi regime’s destruction by conducting martyrdom-seeking (suicidal) operations inside Saudi Arabia,” member of Ansarullah Executive Committee Abdel Mon’em Al-Qurashi told FNA.
He reiterated that Israel and Al Saud are on the same front and Saudi Arabia is taking orders from Washington and Tel Aviv.
“The main cause of the Saudi aggression is the failure of Riyadh’s policies in support of fugitive Yemeni President Mansour Hadi and Takfiri groups and its disappointment at them,” Al-Qurashi added.
He reiterated that the Yemeni army and people will give a crushing response to the Saudi aggressors.
Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen for five days now, killing, at least, 70 civilians and injuring hundreds more.
Five Persian Gulf States — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait — and Egypt that are also assisted by Israel and backed by the US have declared war on Yemen in a joint statement issued earlier Thursday.
US President Barack Obama authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to the military operations, National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said late Wednesday night.
She added that while US forces were not taking direct military action in Yemen, Washington was establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate US military and intelligence support.
Efforts on the part of residents of a rural town in Okinawa to block construction of a new US military base faced a major setback when the Japanese fisheries minister intervened on behalf of the new development.
On Monday, Japan’s Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi “temporarily invalidated” the Okinawa governor’s order to halt construction of a new US air base, which has been a source of discord among residents of Okinawa, the southernmost island of Japan that supports some 26,000 out of 47,000 American military personnel, the Asahi Shimbun reported.
The new US air base planned for the rural town of Nago, on reclaimed land adjacent to a US military base called Camp Schwab, would replace the Futenma Air Base, some 50km (30 miles) away in a congested urban area in central Okinawa.
Hayashi said postponing construction of the base threatened “great damage to diplomacy and defense policy by having a negative impact on the Japan-US relationship, as well as affecting residents near Futenma,” he said in a statement.
Last week, Okinawa’s Governor Takeshi Onaga attempted to block plans to build a new US air base in Nago, claiming underwater survey work needed for reclamation of land for the new $8.6 billion base, hence the Fisheries Ministry’s involvement.
Onaga, who won the 2014 gubernatorial race on his pledge to keep out the US base, said he would hold a press conference to express his position on Hayashi’s ruling.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Hayashi’s decision came after he had examined the position of the governor “from a fair and neutral position,” adding that the federal government believes it is “extremely important” to confront the risks posed by the Futenma base, which is in a densely-populated urban area.
An agreement between the United States and Japan to close down the Futenma Air Base occurred in 1996 after the US military had a severe falling out with the local populace following a number of crimes, including 1995 gang-rape of a 12-year-old Japanese girl by three US military personnel.
At least 45 people have been killed and 65 others wounded in an airstrike by Saudi warplanes targeting a camp for displaced people in northwest Yemen, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says.
“IOM is reporting 45 dead among internally displaced persons, 65 injured [and counting],” spokesman Joel Millman told AFP on Monday.
The humanitarian agency, Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), earlier said the airstrike killed at least 15 people.
The manager of the MSF program in the Middle East, Pablo Marco, said the bodies of the victims and those injured in the airstrike were taken to Haradh Hospital near the al-Mazrak camp in Yemen’s province of Hajja.
“It was an airstrike,” Marco said, adding that it was expected that “more dead are at al-Mazrak camp.”
The al-Mazrak camp has been housing the Yemeni people displaced by the conflict between Houthi fighters and the central government since 2009.
According to the MSF official, 500 new families have arrived at the camp over the past two days.
Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirmed that the camp had been targeted by the air raid.
Saudi Arabia continued its invasion of Yemen for a fifth straight day on Monday, with warplanes targeting areas around the presidential palace in the capital, Sana’a, as Ansarullah fighters keep advancing in areas around the southern port city of Aden.
The airstrikes began late Sunday and continued unabated for almost nine hours, with Saudi bombers targeting positions of the Houthi fighters and the soldiers from the Republican Guard around the presidential palace. A base operated by the Republican Guard in southern Sana’a was also targeted by the strikes.
Riyadh says it has launched the airstrikes, the first round of which was carried out on March 26, to defend the “legitimate government” of Yemen’s fugitive president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who fled to the Saudi capital on the same day. Riyadh has vowed to press ahead with the bombing until Hadi is reinstated.
The Saudi airstrikes have been launched without a United Nations mandate. Dozens of people have fallen victim to the attacks so far.
The military intervention in Yemen by a US-backed coalition of Arab states will undoubtedly inflame the conflict both in Yemen, and throughout the region. It is likely to be a protracted war involving many actors, each of which is interested in furthering its own political and geopolitical agenda.
However, it is the international reaction to this new regional war which is of particular interest; specifically, the way in which the United States has reacted to this undeniable aggression by its Gulf allies. While Washington has gone to great lengths to paint Russia’s reunification with Crimea and its limited support for the anti-Kiev rebels of eastern Ukraine as “aggression,” it has allowed that same loaded term to be completely left out of the narrative about the new war in Yemen.
So it seems that, according to Washington, aggression is not defined by any objective indicators: use of military hardware, initiation of hostilities, etc. Rather, the United States defines aggression by the relationship of a given conflict to its own strategic interests. In Crimea and Ukraine, Russia is the aggressor because, in defending its own interests and those of Russian people, it has acted against the perceived geopolitical interests of the US. While in Yemen, the initiation by Saudi Arabia and other US-backed countries of an unprovoked war with the expressed goal of regime change, this is not aggression as it furthers Washington’s interests.
Language Versus Reality
On March 25, 2015 a coalition of Arab states initiated an aerial bombardment (as of writing there has yet to be a ground invasion, though it is expected) of Yemen for the purposes of dislodging the Houthi rebel government which had weeks before toppled the US and Saudi-backed puppet government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The war initiated by Saudi Arabia, along with its fellow Gulf monarchies and Egypt, was motivated purely by Saudi Arabia’s, and by extension the United States’, perceived interests.
Within hours of the commencement of the bombardment, reports from Yemen indicated that dozens, if not scores, of Yemenis had been killed in the airstrikes. Despite the immediate loss of life, to say nothing of the destruction of infrastructure, buildings, homes, and communities, the United States praised the operation as necessary for regional security. Indeed it has been confirmed that, while not providing direct military support in the form of troops or air support, the United States has been intimately involved in the operation.
Speaking directly on behalf of the White House and the Obama administration, the National Security Council spokesperson announced:
Saudi Arabia, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, and others will undertake military action to defend Saudi Arabia’s border and to protect Yemen’s legitimate government… In support of GCC actions…President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC-led military operations. While U.S. forces are not taking direct military action in Yemen in support of this effort, we are establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate U.S. military and intelligence support… the violent takeover of Yemen by an armed faction is unacceptable and that a legitimate political transition… can be accomplished only through political negotiations and a consensus agreement among all of the parties.
So, in Washington’s own words, the aggressive military intervention into Yemen is both legitimate and supported by the US. Moreover, the US has openly acknowledged their direct participation in the campaign in the form of intelligence and logistical support. Exactly what is entailed in “intelligence” and “logistical support” is certainly open to interpretation. Undoubtedly, the US has its covert forces involved in the operation, likely on the ground in Yemen, to say nothing of its vast presence throughout the region.
In fact, it is universally recognized that the CIA has been intimately involved in Yemen for at least the last several years, with CIA Director Brennan having been integral in fostering the relationship. As the NY Times reported in 2012, the Obama administration’s approach in Yemen was “to employ small numbers of Special Operations troops, Central Intelligence Agency paramilitary teams and drones.” It should be further remembered that Hadi himself was handpicked by Washington in the wake of the fall of former President Saleh’s government, and that Hadi, described by the US as the “legitimate” president ran unopposed in a farcically described “democratic transition” sponsored by the US.
Taken in total then, it is objectively true that the United States has been involved militarily in Yemen since at least 2012, propping up their man in Sanaa in order to bolster their geopolitical and strategic position in the region, naturally under the aegis of “fighting terrorism.” So it stands to reason that the White House would refer to the Saudi aggression as legitimate, and praise it as such. It is equally true that the so called “legitimacy” of the military operation, and the Hadi government itself, is dependent on US interests, nothing less.
Now compare the language employed by the US vis-à-vis this war against Yemen, with the talking points endlessly repeated by all US officials, and nearly all media pundits, regarding Russia’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine. Everyone from Republican warmongers like John McCain, to State Department spokesperson (and unwitting comedic icon) Jen Psaki, have all described Moscow’s moves as “Russian aggression.” Indeed, it seems that phrase alone has become something of a mantra in Washington, and on the airwaves of its servile and compliant corporate media, framing the narrative as “clear and unmistakable aggression against Ukraine’s territorial integrity” and other such vacuous phrases.
But consider for a moment the objective facts. Russia’s direct military interests in Crimea, not to mention the safety and freedom of Russian-speakers, was under direct threat after the US-sponsored coup in Kiev toppled the corrupt, but democratically elected, government in February 2014. In response, Russia launched a limited military operation to secure Crimea and its interests. This is critical because this operation was carried out with no bloodshed, no airstrikes, and not a single shot fired. While this aspect may be forgotten amid the din of belligerent shouts and incredulousness from Washington, it must not be forgotten by keen political observers. In point of fact, Russia’s “aggression” in Crimea was entirely peaceful, and as is self-evident, entirely defensive.
On the other hand, the “legitimate” actions of the US, Saudi Arabia and its allies do not constitute aggression. Well, it is clear that the dozens (by now likely far more) of families who have lost fathers and sons, wives and daughters in the airstrikes would certainly call it aggression.
It should also be noted that, unlike in Crimea where the people were given the opportunity to decide their own fate democratically, the people of Yemen are being given no such opportunity. There has been a domestic insurgency for years in the wake of the civil wars and reunification of North and South Yemen, and whatever stability might have been provided by the new Houthi-led dispensation has now fallen by the wayside. Moreover, the notion that Yemen was a functioning country under Hadi would be like saying that France was a functioning country under the Vichy regime. The overthrow of Hadi opened the possibility for a truly independent nation to emerge. This Saudi Arabia and its allies simply could not abide, as it would set a dangerous precedent for its own domestic opposition which, quite correctly, sees the House of Saud as little more than a proxy of the US and Israel.
Consider also the rhetoric of “aggression” regarding Russia’s very limited support for the anti-Kiev rebels of Donetsk and Lugansk. Listening to western media, one would think that Russian military had invaded en masse in those regions and was fighting a war against Kiev’s military. The reality is that, despite dozens of accusations and hundreds of news stories, there is still no evidence of any direct Russian military presence in eastern Ukraine. It is true that there are Russian volunteers and some Russian hardware, but these are hardly evidence of any invasion, let alone even military support of the scale that the US has just authorized sending to Kiev. Even a Russophobic perspective would have to admit, however reluctantly, that Russia’s presence in eastern Ukraine is minimal and indirect.
Now compare that to the outright bombardment using massive military capabilities being carried out by the Saudis and their allies in Yemen. In a matter of hours, this US-backed alliance has employed more military hardware, and wreaked more devastation, than Russia has in more than 12 months. The question of scale is critical. Russia quite correctly perceives a threat to its own borders and interests from the US-sponsored Kiev regime, and it has acted with a great degree of restraint. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, which also perceives a Houthi-controlled Yemen as a threat to its borders and interests, has unleashed a massive military campaign to destroy the movement and effect its own regime change to reinstall Hadi.
It could not be clearer the level of hypocrisy from the US, its allies, and the compliant media. Russia is an “aggressor” while Saudi Arabia is a “defender.” Iran is sponsoring regime change in Yemen, while the US merely supported “democratic forces” in Ukraine. Assad must go, but Hadi must stay. Not to belabor the point, as it is obvious on its face, but legitimacy and illegitimacy is conferred by the US based on its interests, not international law or objective facts.
That this is well known in the non-Western world is undeniably true. However here in the US, and in the West more broadly, the narrative is shaped by those in power who seek to further their own agendas. They choose the words, and they dictate what is and is not acceptable. They are the Ministry of Truth, and the thought-criminals who question their narratives are dangerous subversives and propagandists. In truth however, those who question those narratives are the ones who have consistently been on the right side of history, from Vietnam to Iraq to Libya, Syria, and Yemen. And I, for one, am proud to count myself among them.
BETHLEHEM – Israeli forces conducted military training exercises in the Ramallah district earlier this week, according to Israeli media.
The Israeli force’s Territorial Brigade allegedly raided the town of Birzeit, just outside the central West Bank city of Ramallah, in what was reported by Israeli news source Haaretz as “preparation for a possible escalation on the ground.”
The forces engaged in a variety of potential scenarios including confronting violent mass demonstrations, shooting attacks, and use of live fire by members of Palestinian security forces.
While Haaretz reported the exercise was planned with the intention to cause “relatively little disruption to the routine of Palestinian life,” the account included a training exercise in the home of a Birzeit University college student, whose house was searched during the night while he stood in his pajamas with an Israeli soldier.
An Israeli army spokeswoman did not have any immediate information about the training, but told Ma’an she would look into recent military training activity in the area.
Birzeit is in Area A, falling under full control of the Palestinian Authority. Israeli forces repeatedly enter Area A despite their obligation by the Oslo Accords not to do so, most often in military raids launched on a near nightly basis to detain Palestinians.
Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din reported that Israeli forces have upheld the practice of using populated Palestinian areas for Israeli military drills since at least 2007.
The group filed a complaint against the Israeli Military Advocate General’s Corps in 2013, arguing that such military exercises “sow fear and panic and violate the security and dignity of the residents,” particularly because exercises are often not announced to Palestinian locals in advance, and thus it is not always clear to nearby residents that these are mere drills.
Legal Advisor for the West Bank declared in February 2014 that military training exercises were no longer authorized to be held in Palestinian villages without giving prior notification to the civilian population, however the rights group continues to criticize the practice.
Funding Illegal Israeli Settlements
The Minnesota State Board of Investment is honor bound when it invests monies from Minnesota’s public employee pension funds. Each of the Board members, which includes Governor Mark Dayton (Chair), State Auditor Rebecca Otto, Secretary of State Steve Simon and Attorney General Lori Swanson know, or should know, that by investing in Israel Bonds the Board has violated its fiduciary responsibility to only invest public pension funds prudently. Israel Bonds are government bonds issued by the State of Israel.
Earlier this month I appeared before the Board members to urge them not to invest in Israel Bonds. Immediately after I ended my presentation, the Governor handed the other Board members a previously prepared written motion to continue investing the state’s pension funds in Israel Bonds. All of us in the packed hearing room understood that my testimony had been wasted. Facing members of the pro-Israel Lobby who had been seated in the front row, three of the four board members voted to invest. Only the State Auditor, Rebecca Otto, voted against the motion.
I’ve seen this pressure before. It usually consists of a subliminal threat by the pro-Israel Lobby to cut off any campaign money to those who defy what the Lobby wants. That is the same kind of threat that allowed Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to travel to the United States to dictate to our Congress how American foreign policy should be conducted. I believe that the 36 standing ovations for Bibi and the 47 Republican Senatorial signatures on the letter to Iran were eager messages to the Israeli Lobby telling them how much Congress appreciated the campaign money given each election cycle to its obedient members. When I served in the US Senate I well remember the threats directed against me for not being obedient enough to the Lobby.
The Board of Investment’s vote to use Minnesota pensioners’ money to buy the low-yield bonds issued by Israel is, without question, highly imprudent and illegal, especially because the Board knows how the money will be used. American money plunged into Israel Bond sales is fungible, meaning that the money is lumped into Israel’s General Fund, and then used for anything Israel wants, without restriction. That also means that the money sent to Israel is used for settlements. Israel’s settlements are illegal under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupier from transferring any part of its civilian population into the territory it occupies. Article 49 was adopted by the international community after WWII as a direct response to Nazi Germany’s illegal and brutal occupation of lands belonging to its neighbors. Both the United States and Israel have signed the Fourth Geneva Convention. Even the United States Government has acknowledged that Israel’s settlements are illegal.
Beyond just exploiting American elected officials in their political zeal to become complicit in financing illegal Israeli settlements by using money from taxpayer funded public employee pension plans to do so, Israel has a long history of inflicting damage on American interests. During the 1967 Middle East War, Israel’s military attacked and attempted to sink a fully flagged American Navy vessel—the USS Liberty—which had been ordered to monitor the War by assuming a listening post off the coast of Egypt and Israel. Using fighter jets, as well as torpedo boats, Israel killed 34 American sailors and wounded another 171 sailors in the process.
What was painful for the survivors and the families of those Americans killed and wounded by Israel were the duplicitous actions of our own public officials, starting with President Lyndon Johnson, by refusing to allow fighter jets of the Sixth Fleet to come to the aid of the Liberty when it was under attack and working to cover up evidence of Israel’s deliberate attack on our ship and the killing and wounding of our sailors.
That wasn’t the last injury against American interests by our so called “ally.” In the 1970s, Israel recruited and paid a Pentagon employee, Jonathan Pollard, to sell to Israel a “truckload of secret documents,” as described by our then Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger.
More recently, a Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, was indicted by the Justice Department in 2004 for handing over classified information on Iran to two employees of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), the leading lobby for Israel. Franklin, a former United States Department of Defense employee, pleaded guilty to several espionage-related charges and was initially sentenced in January 2006 to nearly 13 years in prison. Amazingly, Franklin’s sentence was later reduced to ten months house arrest and 100 hours of community service. In reducing his sentence, the Judge told Franklin that his community service should consist of “speaking to young people about the importance of public officials obeying the law.”
Franklin had passed highly classified information to AIPAC policy director Steven Rosen and AIPAC senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman, whom AIPAC later fired. Initially indicted for illegally conspiring to gather and disclose classified national security information to Israel, all charges against Rosen and Weissman were eventually dismissed.
These are just a few examples that we know about where Israel’s activities have seriously damaged United States interests. What we do not know, including the extent of the duplicity of our public servants, would most likely fill the pages of a book.
Not only is the Investment Board’s action imprudent and illegal with respect to giving Minnesota retirees’ money to a country that has never hesitated in harming America’s interests and will use the money to violate international law, it also tells Israel that it can do what it wishes, without paying any penalty, and that it can even get the United States to pay the price for it.
The Minnesota Investment Board should obey the law whether or not Israel’s Lobby dislikes that decision.
James Abourezk is a former US senator from South Dakota. He is the author of: Advise and Dissent: Memoirs of an ex-Senator.